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How I Talk to Other Parents About Drinking in Front of Our Kids

In late August, my oldest child will start fifth grade. I can hardly believe it’s her last year of elementary school, and, believe me when I say, I will be irritated with every cliché about the passage of time, as I wipe some tears and she boards the school bus on her last first day of elementary school. One of the most important aspects of raising her into the double digits has been the group of adult friends both me and my husband have made.

Little did we know back in the 2s room of preschool, when we still worried about things like diapers and learning the alphabet, that the school environment wasn’t just enriching our children and prepping them for kindergarten, it was an atmosphere for powerful, important adult friendships to develop and grow. We’ve remained close friends with the same group of parents we met when our kids were just toddlers, and we’ve shared parenting worries, woes, highs and lows. We also share holidays, vacations, weekend gatherings and sporting events together.  This year will mark the sixth consecutive year this group of 16, adults and kids together, have spent Labor Day in a rental house, pulling the kids on tubes around the lake and relishing fireside laughs.

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Whether it’s during our annual Labor Day trip or the holiday gift exchange, or a spring baseball game in between, usually there is alcohol. While our annual traditions and habits haven’t changed over the years, it turns out, our kids have.

The decisions the adults make and how we behave resonates pretty deeply among kids who are facing down their last first day of elementary school, we’ve learned.

Among the group, the eldest child is going into seventh grade and most are in fifth grade. Now they’re watching. They notice if someone cracks a beer on the boat over Labor Day weekend at 3pm because now they can read time and wear watches. They see beer bottles over the holiday gifts and turns out, they can count pretty well, and count, they do. Recently, the kids revealed that they notice if one parent said they would drive home at the end of the night but instead, another parent does.

Not only do the kids notice, they ask questions and when they are tweens, they challenge you when things are different or you seemingly contradict a previous decision.

Which then leads to adults whispering amongst one another, questioning, should we have another? What should we say to the kids tomorrow morning about why Dad didn’t drive home? And do the kids think the parents need to pour a glass of wine to be together, or have they not thought it through that carefully?  We didn’t used to worry or talk about these things. Now we do.

How we answer our kids’ questions varies by each individual family but the reality is, these are now common conversations among our adult friends. Instead of trading nap tricks and tantrum war stories, we know our kids are watching, and we share what they’ve asked – or challenged us on – regarding alcohol, and how we answered.

While our family conversations might not all be the same, we share a goal of showing our kids the importance of making responsible decisions. And being flexible. And communicating openly. Which might be why one parent became the designated driver after the other was planning to.

Sometimes things change, kids change, but placing a premium on safety, responsibility and honest conversations never will. Suddenly, we’re realizing we’ll also be saying this same thing to our kids on their last first day of middle and high school.  Turns out now we really are just at the beginning and the conversation will continue.

Published author, owner & founder of public affairs based social media firm, SOMA Strategies, and contributor to Huffington Post DC and Washingtonian Magazine, Wired Momma is one of Washington’s top parenting bloggers. A self-proclaimed expert on nothing, with an opinion on everything, Wired Momma  is the place in the blogosphere for a jolt of parenthood, with a sprinkle of snark and plenty of Moi Loves Moi back-patting. WM’s two children, ages 5 and 8, give her endless fodder for blog material.

*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) or any Responsibility.org member.*

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